'Pen woes lead Davey to reevaluate strategies

'Pen woes lead Davey to reevaluate strategies

WASHINGTON -- The morning after a harsh self-assessment of his management of the Nationals' bullpen in an 11-10 loss to the Braves on Friday night, Davey Johnson came to work with a clearer mind and brighter outlook for Saturday's doubleheader.

In the midst of seeing a 9-0 lead begin to disintegrate in the sixth inning, Johnson pulled a largely inefficient Stephen Strasburg after 5 1/3 innings for a combination of five different relievers.

Though he didn't elaborate on any specific moves, Johnson repeatedly expressed frustration with his bullpen decisions, calling it, "Arguably the worst game I've ever managed in my life."

"Well, I didn't sleep too good," Johnson said Saturday morning. "In penance for yesterday, I went and [ran] my two miles and cut about two minutes off it. Punished myself and tried to wipe out some memory banks and create some new brain cells in my head. I hope it works."

After Strasburg was responsible for four Braves scoring in the sixth, Mike Gonzalez threw 30 pitches in 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. When Drew Storen relieved Gonzalez prior to the eighth inning, things quickly soured for the Nats' bullpen. Storen, in his second outing after starting the season on the disabled list, surrendered two runs on one hit and a walk without getting an out. Sean Burnett pitched the rest of the eighth, giving up two more runs on two hits and two walks.

The Nats still held a 9-8 lead entering the ninth inning, but that didn't hold for long once Tyler Clippard entered and walked Dan Uggla, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. Clippard proceeded to hit Paul Janish as Janish was attempting to bunt, then allowed a triple to Michael Bourn that scored Uggla and Janish two batters later. Tom Gorzelanny allowed the Braves' final run in the 11th, though it was unearned after Ryan Zimmerman's throwing error put Uggla on base to lead off the frame.

Despite wearing through so many relievers, Johnson said he would not push Edwin Jackson any further than normal when he starts Game 1 of the doubleheader. Johnson said he would reconsider the structure of his bullpen, however.

"Part of my problem is that with the different closers, it changes the setup guys and all that kind of stuff," Johnson said. "I haven't been pleased with the way I've had to set it up the last month or so. Part of that leads to the problem that we had yesterday. That's because I went with what I thought was the best scenario rather than what's the best for the long haul."

Henry Rodriguez began the season as the Nats' closer, but his inefficiency and a brief stint on the disabled list paved the way for Clippard to take over in late May. Clippard excelled initially, collecting 14 saves in as many opportunities. But since picking up a loss with a one-run ninth inning against the Rockies on July 8, Clippard has struggled, blowing two of his three most recent save opportunities. In that trio of games, Clippard has allowed seven runs on six hits and three home runs.

"I just haven't been real sharp lately," Clippard said after Friday night's loss. "It's kind of just something you go through in a season."

Storen's return this week from April surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow was expected to alleviate some of the stress on Clippard, though Storen has yet to reach 2011 form, when he notched 43 saves as the team's closer.

"It should make it easier, but I need to get him back to where he was last year," Johnson said when asked about Storen's return. "[Friday night] was a misguided little attempt to try to expedite that situation.

"My task going forward is to try to, with all the pieces here now, put it back into some semblance of order and use it that way."